GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Things may never again be normal for Mikey Duarte, but if there's one place he can go to feel like he did before life became complicated and maddeningly unfair, it's probably a baseball diamond.The White Sox Minor League shortstop has spent the past six months mourning the
GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Things may never again be normal for Mikey Duarte, but if there's one place he can go to feel like he did before life became complicated and maddeningly unfair, it's probably a baseball diamond.
The White Sox Minor League shortstop has spent the past six months mourning the loss of his sister, Christiana, who was tragically killed in the mass shooting last October in Las Vegas. Duarte spoke at length about his ordeal when he first arrived to Spring Training more than a month ago, and he did so again on Wednesday, after he doubled in the ninth inning of the White Sox 4-3 loss to the Padres. It was his Spring Training debut.
"That was for my sister," an emotional Duarte said.
Christiana Duarte was 16 months younger than Mikey and working for both the Los Angeles Rams and Kings at the time of the shooting. Mikey had a ticket to the concert where the shooting took place, but he was rehabilitating from a serious head injury, a skull fracture he suffered in his second Minor League game. His sister took the ticket instead.
Since then, it's been about picking up the pieces and trying to go on. Duarte, a 23rd-round pick in the 2017 Draft out of UC Irvine, is dealing with more than any 23-year-old should have to. He has suffered physical wounds from a head trauma that could have derailed his career. Now, piled on top of that are the permanent emotional scars from the loss of his sister.
Baseball can assist with the healing. Duarte, who vowed to dedicate the rest of his career to Christiana, said he feels her presence every time he steps onto the field.
"Swing hard and do what I've done my whole life and play and hit for her," he said. "She's watching over me and my mom and dad and I'm just very blessed by God to play this game after a head injury."
Duarte is honoring Christiana this season by having her name on his bats and gloves, and may also sport a patch in her memory.
The healing process is ongoing, and the shortstop acknowledged everything has been "a grind" since losing his sister.
"She's in heaven, watching over me and my mom and dad," he said. "My trainers and best friends and girlfriend and my parents have definitely helped me get on the right path back to playing baseball after what happened, my injury and my sister.
"But I think knowing that my sister's with me more now than she was back then is helping me get through the days playing baseball."
David Adler is a reporter for MLB.com based in New York. Follow him on Twitter at @_dadler.
Alyson Footer is a national correspondent for MLB.com. Follow her on Twitter @alysonfooter.